This was the final course in the big dinner I cooked for my husband and I a couple weekends ago (First course can be seen here, second here and main here). I’ve gotten a lot of really great feedback from all the recipes and posts from the dinner so I will try to do more like this! I’m all about really simple and understated desserts and this is one of my all time favorite. A thick and delicious vanilla bean infused custard hiding under and crackling layer of burnt sugar, this is the perfect dessert. The greatest thing about it is that it can be prepared the day before and then all you have to do before serving is torch the sugar on top! I’ve also gotten a lot of inquiries about our china from the past posts… it is our wedding china, Vera Wang’s Gilded Weave Collection. This recipe makes 4 servings but can easily be doubled for more.
Start off by preheating your oven to 300 degrees and bringing a kettle of water to boil for your bain-marie (water bath). Place your crème brûlée dishes in a large roasting pan and set to the side. (If you don’t have crème brûlée specific dishes, don’t worry… you can use any shallow oven-safe dishes.) In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of heavy cream, 3 tbsp granulated sugar, the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean and 1/2 vanilla bean pod. Heat over medium for about 7-8 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble around the edges. DO NOT let the mixture boil. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together 4 egg yolks, 3 tbsp granulated sugar and 1/8 tsp salt. Now you need to temper the cream mixture into the eggs. This is the most important step because you don’t want to add the hot mixture to the egg mixture all at once otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs. Pour a small amount of the cream into the egg mixture while whisking at the same time and whisk until completely incorporated.
Continue this process until all of the cream mixture has been incorporated. Now you have to custard mixture for the base of your crème brûlée. Before you pour the custard mixture into your crème brûlée dishes, you’ll want to strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Not only do you want to get the vanilla bean pod out, but there will be other bits and if you didn’t temper enough this will remove and pieces of egg that cooked. Fill your crème brûlée dishes with the custard mixture and place in the oven. Once the roasting pan is in the oven, pour in the boiling water so that it comes up about halfway on the crème brûlée dishes. Bake for 30-40 minutes until custard is just set. You’ll know they’re set if you carefully shake the pan and the custards tremble just slightly in the centers. Remove the pan from the oven and using tongs, carefully remove the crème brûlée dishes from the bain-marie and let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
Wrap with plastic and put in refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours (up to 3 days). This step is important because the custard is going to finish setting up during this time. Once the custards are completely set and you’re ready to serve, sprinkle with a thin layer of granulated sugar and brûlée with a torch. (If you don’t have a torch, you can use your broiler but make sure the custards are really cold before you put them in the oven otherwise they’ll melt).
Now you’re ready to serve! If you ask me, nothing beats that first taste… the crackle of the sugar breaking, revealing a gooey custard underneath, it’s perfection!!